What is happening right now?
I feel in turmoil, the upheaval and fear and uncertainty and emotion running through each individual in the country right now is palpable. I have seen first hand rifts caused within friendships and families between those who voted one way and the other. I feel sorry for those who have been outvoted and will be dragged through years of change and uncertainty against their will, those who have already suffered financially or in their work, those who are hanging on a knife edge to find out what happens next. I feel equally sorry for those who went into this decision with completely inadequate knowledge, unknowingly voting for what seemed like promise for our health system, our families and our country’s independence from a body of faceless bureaucrats so seemingly far away that they appeared to have no business making decisions about our future. I feel sorry for those who don’t understand the gravity of the situation, that still aren’t clear how our future will be affected. Which, by the way, is pretty much all of us. Because what happens from here is still a big black hole of speculation.
I find it much harder to feel sorry for those who let racism wash over them and even more so for those actively partake in it. I’ve heard some sickening stories about Europeans being told to “go home”. Well, this is their home. They have families and jobs and houses and lives and friends here. “They” are not “they” anyway. We are all just we. Each of us is human. Each of us have loved ones we want to protect and passions we want to follow and money we need to earn. I was looking forward one day to living and working abroad, hopefully in Italy. And then I would be “they”, the other, the invader, the foreigner. It is bad enough that you move somewhere for excitement and adventure and to experience the world and share cultures and then feel nervous and scared because you don’t know the language or the cultural norms, it’s harder to make friends, the food is alien. And then to be made to feel so totally unwelcome is completely unjust. Life in this current age lets us experience the extraordinary variety and richness of each unique way that groups and cultures across the world have learnt to navigate life – if only everyone would make the most of this opportunity.
However, I do feel some sorrow for those who can’t see past the labels we place on each other and believe that it is right and required to separate ourselves based on language, skin colour and culture. Some people were born and brought up to think that that is the only way to react and behave. The connections they formed as they grew and developed, which we all crave as human beings, meant that creating an “us and them” culture was the only way to survive and ensure you felt part of a community. The information they have been exposed to and the education they have received has not allowed them to see what a thriving, wholesome life can look like when diversity and equality are championed. I don’t support their views, but I understand how they could have got to that point.
I feel privileged to work at the University of Essex, as diverse and supportive a community as you can imagine. 40% of our students and staff are not from the UK, and I wholeheartedly believe we are a greater and richer institution for that. I love walking through the squares and hearing 3 different languages being spoken as I wander past groups of people chatting unashamedly. The University has already declared its continuing support for diversity of culture and I am thankful to feel surrounded by people who, whether they voted to Leave or Remain in the EU, love to live and work with a wide ranging group of cultures.
I can only hope that the emotion that has charged through the nation will subside and be replaced with a gentler understanding of individual backgrounds and the impact and influence that has on people’s decisions. I truly believe there is nothing stronger than people with differences of opinion, background, culture, interest, passion and strength coming together to unite and drive our society forward with the great variety of power that gives us. Whatever our future holds we can still do that, embrace those who are willing to be part of it and educate those who aren’t. I am not giving up now, nor ever, on the unitedness of the world and whilst there are still those who believe the same there is still a chance to make it happen. Never lose faith in yourself or your fellow man as that is the only way great futures are made.